Q. Orioles obviously 69-93 last year, 93-69 this year. Just your opinion what changed for them over last year?
JOE GIRARDI: I think their pitching improved, I think position players improved here. You look at what their bullpen did and how they changed the games that you're supposed to win, they won. Last year that wasn't always the case. They had starters that stepped up, whether it was González, they went and got Hammel, who threw extremely well. But I think a lot of it has to do with the improvement in their pitching staff.
Q. What are your memories of the rivalry that the Yankees teams you played on had with the Orioles in '96 and '97 and the Jeffrey Maier game in particular?
JOE GIRARDI: They were fierce. We had some crazy games here. Every once in a while we'd bring up the two game series that we had here during the regular season where Andy started Game 1, got knocked out, and then got the win in Game 2. It was a 15 inning game in Game 2, and they were both like five hour games. They were intense series.
And then the playoff series was obviously very intense, and you had the fly ball that everyone talked about for a long time and probably was part of the reason that maybe instant replay was brought in on home run balls. But they were great, and you think about the caliber of players they had here, you know, you had obviously Cal Ripken and they had Palmeiro and they had the Alomar's and they had a number of great players here, and they played extremely well again. I think it's good for baseball.
Q. You held this team off for basically a month. They were never able to pass you. What's it like now to play them in a five game series after all that, and does it put more pressure on you guys?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I don't think there's any more pressure than if you were playing a different team. You want to win and move on, and when you think about it, you've basically got to hold off the team by one game. I mean, that's basically what it comes down to.
Our series between them during the course of the year was tied. If you look at the last four games that we had here, tied, very close, the number of runs we scored, the ERAs, so it should be a great series.
Q. Swisher said the other day that he's a pretty excitable guy anyway and he thought maybe getting to the playoffs he can get amped up a little bit too much and psych himself out a little bit. Do you see that as being a factor with him or what do you think of his past postseason performance, just one of those things?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, I don't make too much of it because they're short series. We played playoff baseball for a month, and he was really, really good. You think about what he did the last two, two and a half weeks, he was really, really good. He doesn't need to change that approach. I think that experience has probably helped him. Just go out and be who you are, and it worked really well for him and us.
Q. You talked about some of the players. Could you talk about the job that Buck Showalter has done and what he's meant?
JOE GIRARDI: He's done a great job. I mean, you think about the turnaround from when he got here, the turnaround from last year, the increase in wins, the type of games they were in, all the close games, he's done a great job. And he has to obviously get some of the credit here. I mean, I know you have to have players, but you look at the turnaround here, and he's been a big part of it.
Q. Have you finalized the roster yet?
JOE GIRARDI: Yeah, in our minds we have, but we don't need to turn it in until 10:00 tomorrow, and we won't.
Q. So it'll stay in your mind and not mine?
JOE GIRARDI: Correct (laughing).
Q. The other question I have is can this team
JOE GIRARDI: You know, and weather could change that. Weather could changes things if all of a sudden you had to play five days in a row.
Q. Can this team win if Alex Rodriguez doesn't return to being a force in the middle of the lineup?
JOE GIRARDI: Oh, I think so. I think there's a number of capable players in that lineup to score a lot of runs, so I don't think it falls on any one guy's shoulders whether we win this series or not; it falls on all 25 guys in that room, the coaching staff and myself. That's who it falls on.
I don't think you can say if one guy doesn't hit, are the Yankees going to win. It takes a lot of guys to win series like this.
Q. Typically when you play a team you want to get into their bullpen because that is a weakness. With the Orioles their bullpen is so good. Does it change what you do strategically?
JOE GIRARDI: No, not really. The bottom line that we always talk about is you set your lineup in the sense to try to beat the starter, and then you prepare yourself a little bit if they start making changes. You don't want to stack left hander upon left hander, but we know their bullpen is good. We understand that. We like our bullpen, too. You get to this level, most bullpens that you face are going to be pretty good, so the score runs anyway you can. It doesn't really matter, and it doesn't matter when you score them.
Q. Was pitching Sabathia and Pettitte back to back, two left handers something you had to think about, and if Kuroda's home road stretches were different, would you have split them up?
JOE GIRARDI: You know, I think there's a couple factors in this. Number one is it's the most innings he's had since he's been here, and probably in his career, and we just felt that the extra rest would probably help him. He would have been on his normal turn. We thought the extra rest would help him. We don't want Andy to go too long without throwing, so it's kind of those two factors.
Q. CC's last couple postseasons have not been what you saw from him in 2009. Did you remember anything specifically that was different about those two postseasons for him, and also, is Jason Nix a possibility? Is he healthy enough to play?
JOE GIRARDI: He's definitely a possibility for us. As far as CC, I don't think you can make too much of last year just because of the way the schedule was. We started a game and stopped it, and then he came back on short rest, so I don't really make too much of that.
He pitched well against Minnesota in Game 1. I don't really recall exactly how he did against Texas. But I mean, he's pitched pretty well for the most part.
Q. You acknowledge and we all ask about their bullpen is known to be really good. What is it about it? Is it the mix? Is it just the arms? What is it that makes their bullpen kind of stand out?
JOE GIRARDI: Well, when you think about bullpens and usually what makes them stand out is the mix of left handers and right handers, their ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. You think about Johnson, he's not giving up home runs, O'Day is probably not giving up home runs. You've got a power guy in Strop. So there's a difference there. There's power, there's deception, there's left handers, there's right handers, and I think it takes all those things. You have guys that have the ability to get double play balls, guys that have the ability to get strikeouts, so I think they work well together.
And I think Matusz has done a really good job since they put him in the bullpen.
Q. I'm asking realizing that the roster is not set yet, but you guys were without Gardner and sort of that element the entire year. What he brings to the table, do you think that it's even more important in the postseason, a guy that can steal a base, especially in late game situations when you're looking for one run?
JOE GIRARDI: Sometimes those things can show up more in a short series because there's so much pressure on every game, and there's a lot of times these guys are very tight, and that one run could mean the difference in a series or a lot of different things. Yeah, speed is extremely important during the course of the season, but you don't measure one game the same, and that's why I think people talk about it a lot more.
Q. I realize you can only play the schedule you're playing the Orioles in this round. Would you have rather not played a division team in this first round because of how they know you to well and you know them so well?
JOE GIRARDI: No, I never really understood why it was like that anyway. I always thought that the wild card team should play the team with the best record. I can get into a lot more theories if you want, but I'm sure Phyllis doesn't want to hear them. (Laughter).
I don't really have a problem with it. I don't.